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Here’s your guide to everything Miss Mississippi

Forty-four contestants, four days of competition, one crown on the line, the 85th edition of the Miss Mississippi will begin in Vicksburg for the 60th year Wednesday at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

The 44 contestants range between the ages of 17 and 24 and are all vying for the title of Miss Mississippi and the abundance of scholarships and sponsorships that come along with the title.

Before taking the stage Wednesday, each contestant had to win a preliminary local pageant to earn her spot in the Miss Mississippi Pageant. The representatives of the local pageant then become a key cog in getting the girls ready for Miss Mississippi.

The preliminary pageants follow the same format as the Miss Mississippi Pageant with points earned in competitions in talent, eveningwear, onstage question, swimsuit and personal interview combining to decide the winner.

“There’s fewer girls in these local pageants, but generally they all compete in different ones until they get a title to compete in the big pageant,” Kaitlyn Jones, who works for the Miss Mississippi Pageant, said. Contestants can compete in the Miss Mississippi Pageant for multiple years as long as they meet the requirement of being between 17 and 24 years of age and unmarried, but they must win a different local pageant each year in order to qualify.

At the Miss Mississippi pageant, the girls will begin participating in private 10-minute interviews with the judges on Monday. They are divided into three groups and they will have their interviews either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on their group. The groups also determine which night of the competition the contestants will compete in either eveningwear, swimsuit or talent.

“They’ll ask things along the lines of current events,” Jones said of the interview. “Maybe there is an important law being passed and they will ask about that or if there is a political issue going on they’ll ask about that. They will ask things about policy and mainly current events. Really, it is up to the judges. They write their questions and they feed off of each other.”

Wednesday night the contestants will take part in the first night of preliminary onstage competition. Each group will compete in one of the three onstage competitions with the evening wear group also answering the onstage questions. The groups will then rotate categories over the next two nights with the final preliminary taking place Friday evening.

The contestants’ preliminary score is made up of their score in each of the five categories. The private interview counts for 25 percent, talent counts for 35 percent, swimsuit counts for 15 percent, evening wear counts for 20 percent and the onstage questions counts for 5 percent.

According to the official Miss Mississippi rules, “the private interview is designed to allow insight into the contestant’s ability to fulfill the responsibilities of the title holder and to express and distinguish her beliefs.”

The talent portion for each contestant lasts 90 seconds and no two contestants are allowed to have duplicate performances, meaning they cannot sing or dance to the same song as another contestant.

According to the official Miss Mississippi rules, “the judges are looking for interpretive ability and technical skill level along with stage presence and personality.”

In the swimsuit portion, contestants can wear either a one- or two-piece suit and can either wear shoes or be barefoot. The contestants are limited to 20 seconds of a walk, turn and pause during the swimsuit competition.

According to the official Miss Mississippi rules, “the judges are looking for the contestant’s lifestyle statement concerning physical health and nutrition, their sense of confidence and composure, and the way they present themselves by their walk, posture, grace, energy, charisma, and expression.”

Jones said the judges are not necessarily looking for “who has the flattest stomach,” but that each judge will have their own criteria of what they are looking for.

The evening wear competition is judged on “beauty and sense of attractiveness; sense of confidence; personality and stage presence; technique (walk, posture, carriage and grace); and appropriateness of evening wear.” During this portion each contestant will also answer a randomly selected question.”

“A person’s dress that they pick out really says a lot about them,” Jones said. “When they are judging it, does it stand out? Everything depends on the judge. Not everybody is going to look for the same thing.”

On Saturday, the contestants return for the final night of competition. At the beginning of the show the top 10 are revealed and only they participate in the final night of competition. They compete in each of the onstage categories once again and then the top five is revealed.

The final portion of competition is an onstage question for the top five. On the final night, the contestants’ score in the preliminary round counts for 25 percent, talent counts for 30 percent, swimsuit counts for 10 percent, eveningwear counts for 15 percent and the final on stage question counts for 20 percent.

The winner of Miss Mississippi receives a $10,000 scholarship to use at any college or university, and thousands of dollars of institute-specific scholarships from colleges throughout the state. Miss Mississippi also receives an abundance of sponsorships to assist them throughout their yearlong reign.

“They have dress sponsors, sponsors for jewelry, they have hair sponsors, tanning sponsors. Anybody that sponsors the pageant, she gets that sponsorship,” Jones said.

Miss Mississippi will also represent the state in the Miss America Pageant in September. If Miss Mississippi is named Miss America, her first runner-up in the state pageant will assume the title of Miss Mississippi.